“Find your USP and stick to it”
Tory Archbold is the founder of Powerful Steps and host of the Powerful Steps podcast
Tory Archbold knows a thing or two about launching a successful business. After all, she’s done it – twice.
The first company she built – TORSTAR – became one of Australia’s best-known public relations agencies, and worked with some of the world’s top brands, from ZARA to Nespresso.
But a near-death experience in 2013 forced her change tack – and led to the launch of her second business. That year Archbold’s appendix burst and she contracted septicaemia. When a predicted six-month recovery period stretched into a four-year battle to regain her health, Archbold realised her jet-setting life was over.
“My surgeon said something that changed the course of my life: ‘Tory, you need to work on what’s going to give you a happy heart, because a happy heart is a magnet for miracles’”.
So in 2019 she launched Powerful Steps, which empowers women to achieve their career goals. “I’d always had powerful female mentors,” she explains. “And in many ways, it was because of those mentors, who held me accountable, that I’d been able to dominate the public relations industry and attract amazing opportunities.”
While mentors and career coaches are common in the US, Archbold realised there was an unmet need in Australia – and having built TORSTAR from scratch, she knew she had a unique skillset to offer. “I thought ‘What if I could share the toolkit I used to create that business with other women?’”
It took 12 months to get the branding of Powerful Steps right. “I redid my website four times.” COVID-19 also forced Archbold to cancel speaking tours and events. “So, I started having virtual coffee dates which eventually progressed to live coffee dates. I realised what was missing through COVID was the human connection, so I became a connector”.
However, Archbold admits that the most challenge part was letting go of her identity as a successful publicist. “I was never scared of the hard work involved with setting up a new business, but I found it difficult giving up my identity as TORSTAR. That agency had such brand credibility, and I was always known as TORSTAR.”
Today, though, she wouldn’t have it any other way. Through seminars, workshops and one-on-one coaching, Powerful Steps now delivers practical advice on everything from building brand equity to delivering customer experience, as well as coaching to help women fulfil their potential.
TORY’S ADVICE FOR STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS:
Build your network: Never underestimate the power of human connection, especially in a virtual world. This is why I always say to have coffee dates (not lunch — that can get pricey, especially if you’re just starting out!). I have three coffee dates a week: one with someone I know, one with someone I wish to partner with, and the last with someone outside my comfort zone.
Find a mentor: I’ve always had a strong mentor. While many people share their ideas and seek advice from family and friends, I’ve found that separating your personal life from your professional is paramount to success. See it as an investment in yourself.
Stay in your lane: Be original. Do your research to understand your market, audience, brand and value set, and take ownership of it. The worst thing anyone can be in business is be a copycat — don’t ever forget that the point of difference is you.
“You have to be the biggest champion of your business”
Laura Brading, co-founder of WellRead
For Laura Brading, life has always been about books. The former publisher and bookseller has always dreamed of building a community of like-minded bibliophiles who are as passionate about the texture and scent of physical books as they are hungry for knowledge and stories.
In July 2019, that dream came true: Brading, along with then co-founder Biz Cranston, created a book subscription service – WellRead – where literary titles (not always bestsellers) are curated, and delivered to subscribers’ doors as often as they want.
“I wanted to provide a service for people who may not have the time to browse in bookstores all day, but who are interested in reading good books and want to eliminate the risk of choosing a dud read,” she says.
Once the pair made the decision to launch, they spent five months deciding on branding, setting up e-commerce platforms, deciding on packaging and fulfilllment solutions and planning a social media strategy.
Fortunately, WellRead required little initial investment. “The beauty of a subscription model is that you order to spec; we didn’t need to have product on hand for launch.”
To stand out in a saturated market, Brading is exacting when it comes to selecting books, and reads mountains of novels before handpicking her favourites every month. She also provides reading notes and conversation starters for book clubs.
But the hard work has paid off; today, WellRead sends out 750 books a month, with subscriber numbers growing every month.
“While there were supply issues last year due to COVID, one great thing I realised is that our service is so relevant during a pandemic,” she says.
And while she acknowledges that it’s a privilege to work for yourself, “the line between home and work can get blurred”.
“I’m still learning to set boundaries and to separate my personal life from my professional life,” Bradding says. “It’s a constant balancing act, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
LAURA’S TIPS FOR STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS:
Start today: The mountain of work involved in starting a business is only going to get done if you start today. Also, get comfortable with the fact that it will never fully get done.
Say yes: to advice, help, events, invitations, mentors and more. You just never know what opportunities and growth may come from it. For Brading, the moment came when she said yes to a casual meeting with Cranston (who has since exited the business). “If I hadn’t done that I’d probably still be in the daydreaming phase.”
Believe in what you do: You have to be the biggest champion of your business, and you can’t fake that. There will be times when you doubt yourself or the business, and being passionate about what it is you’re about will help rescue you from those moments.
“Don’t be overwhelmed by self-doubt”
Phoebe Simmonds, founder, The BLOW
It was while Phoebe Simmonds was working as the marketing director of an international beauty brand that she came up with her business idea. Every time she flew to the US, Simmonds would notice the ease with which professional women could get a weekly blow dry, and the effect that such a simple service would have on their confidence and self-esteem.
When she came home, Simmonds tried to find a similar service; a blow-dry bar that would provide not only offer a no-fuss blow wave, but also understand how to manage difficult hair types (like Simmonds’ own, which she describes as dry and coaRse.) The problem was, it didn’t exist — but an opportunity did.
“I relied on a blow dry to feel polished and powerful, and I thought there was a big opportunity to serve more women like me here — hence, The BLOW was born,” says Simmonds.
The business is built around four themes: a convenient location (there’s the flagship boutique in Melbourne’s Little Collins Street launched in 2018, and another one in Sydney Sephora opened last year), a consistent service, a competitive price and a cool aesthetic. The BLOW offers seven signature styles and price is based on hair length.
“When I started The BLOW, I wanted to take out the intimidation barrier that guests can sometimes feel (myself included) when they visit a salon,” Simmonds says.
“Hair should be fun, stylists should be approachable, and people should walk out feeling like they can conquer their day with confidence.”
It took just under a year to turn the idea into reality, with Simmonds explaining that she investing a “huge amount of time” into the branding of The BLOW “such as our personality tone and values – and what we were going to do to stand out… and then it was on to expressing that across everything we did, from interiors to marketing and culture and recruitment.”
Although leaving the security of full-time job was daunting, Simmonds says she was ready to work for herself. “The biggest change was going from leading a team of 10 marketing experts to working for myself. Now, I do a lot more of everything beyond marketing, from managing payroll and cash flow to hosting events and driving PR and running our Instagram channel.”
Fast forward to today, not only does Simmonds’ hair get the care it deserves, but Simmonds herself looks forward to meeting interesting people every day. “It makes me happy that we can use something as simple as a blow dry to lift women up and help them conquer their day with confidence.”
PHOEBE SIMMONDS’ TIPS:
Know your worth: Don’t get consumed by imposter syndrome. Doubting yourself is akin to self-sabotage, so try not to get overwhelmed with self-doubt. You have the power within you to act confidently and make assertive decisions, so lean into that.
Live in the present, not in the future: Opportunities are fluid, and it’s better to say yes to the challenge, the side-step, the random role you may never have thought of that wasn’t in your career plan but could take you to places you’ve never dreamed of.
Don’t make the professional, personal: Listen for the lesson then move on. Particularly in the beginning, your small business is your life; you think about it 24-7. It’s natural to instinctively take things personally because it’s yours, but at the end of the day, it’s a business and it’s important to have boundaries, thick skin and resilience to weather any storm, feedback or external pressure,
Presented in partnership with Powerful Steps
Want to get your business idea off the ground? Or looking for personal coaching or a personal photo shoot? This month, Tory is offering PRIMER readers 10% off her Business Attraction Program and 10% of other programmes such as one-on-one mentoring, with these exclusive links. Or you can sign up for the free coffee challenge with Tory here.